The Poor Canary

A small canary was under the weather and went to the doctor. “Doctor,” the small bird said “I don’t feel so well.”
Well take off your feathers and let’s have a look.”

The doctor examined the small bird, sighed and said “I have bad news for you. You have a canarial disease. It’s chirpes. And it’s untweetable.”

Seven Gardens

I like flowers as much as most guys. They’re easy on the eye. They smell good. And they make decent gifts in a pinch.  I like gardens which are chock full of flowers.  And when I drive, I’m often attentive to the gardens I pass.  Seeing them turns a simple ride into a botanic journey.  Now my definition of “garden” and yours may differ.  Mine is simply an aggregation of different flowers in an actual flower bed.  A few daffodils in a pot or a line of petunias along the driveway is nice but it doesn’t qualify.  I like gardens. . . . . .  

When I go to play golf, I often take a shortcut on an 11 block stretch of Keeler Avenue in Skokie.   As you might imagine, I have gotten to know the route, the stop signs and the cross streets.  And I have paid attention to the homes on Keeler as well.  For the most part, the homes are nice-looking, well-maintained and properly landscaped.   Many probably have gardens in the back yards where the owners can enjoy them.  But there are only seven gardens (by my count) in the front yards of that stretch of Keeler.  One is an uber garden which is quite beautiful.   And there are a couple wild natural gardens.  Many of the homes have a few flowers out in front which is good.  Some offer only grass and some bushes.  But those seven gardens make the ride pleasant and get me in the mood to whack the elusive white pellet.  It’s only when my golf ball gets lost in a flower bed or bushes that my enthusiasm for gardens diminishes. . . . . $%#&^X*! gardens. . . . .    

The One That Got Away . . . .

In my post of June 28, 2012, I spoke of fishing for (and cooking) “Walleyed Pike.”   And of going to Minocqua, Wisconsin, to visit my friend Dan.  We were just up in Minocqua again and as in the past Dan and I went fishing and had the best guide in the North Woods, Jim W.  After a day on Trout Lake, we had nearly caught our limit.  But that’s not the story. . . .

Dan and I each had one of those “aha” or “wow” moments while fishing (actually it was more like a “fasten your seatbelt” moment).   It was early afternoon.  Hot sun.  Cool wind.  Suddenly Dan’s line went taut and the pole bent in half.  For a good five minutes, it was reel, slack, reel, slack.  Dan had hooked a monster.  Jim stood ready with the net.  And then – as often happens – the line released.  The monster fish had gone free.   Obvious disappointment. 

Then it was my turn.  The boat was rocking gently.   I was close to dozing.  Thinking of dinner.  When there was this sharp tug on the line.  Eyes  snapped open.   I pulled and nothing happened.  Seaweed I thought.   And I relaxed.  And then the telltale pull.  Then a heavy tug.  And a steady drain of line.  A fish.  A big fish. . . .  And I yanked up the rod to set the hook and began reeling.  For a few minutes.  Reel, slack.  Reel, slack.  And then I saw it.  This huge leviathan rolled upside down.  White belly.   A yardstick away.   It looked to be about six feet long.  No seven.  Maybe. . . . Anyway, I stared at this giant rolling over and thought of the classic line of Roy Scheider as Chief Brody from the scene in Jaws where the big guy makes his first appearance.  He says to Quint “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.   I had seen Jaws.  Right under the boat.  And with that, Jaws reared up, ripped the lure off the line and descended into the deep.   Aha.  Wow!    

Act Your Age. . . .

Every once in awhile, Donna and I will be out and Donna will lean over and hiss “act your age.”  Or sometimes it’s “how old are you?”  So I take the lampshade off my head or take out my novelty buck teeth and act contrite. But frankly, I look at this rare scolding as a good thing.

ÜberBukk Teef

I just finished (for the second time) Bob Rotella’s classic book – Golf is Not a Game of Perfect.   Among other things, Dr. Bob talks about golf and age.   He mentions Paul Runyan (1908-2002), the great PGA champ and master golf instructor.  Paul was active in golf (and other things) well into his 80’s.  According to Rotella, Paul and his wife Bernice embodied the old Satchel Paige aphorism about age.  Someone once asked Satchell (who was in his 40’s before segregation ended and he made it to the Major Leagues) if he could still pitch at his advanced age.  Paige replied “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”  Wow. . . . .    

I’d seen that quote before but this time when I read it, it resonated a wee bit more.  I don’t feel my age.   I don’t feel much different than I did when I was 25 or so.  Yeah, I know — the aches and pains.  But for the vast majority of people, age is a state of mind.  As Bernard Baruch, the great financier, once wrote — “I will never be an old man.  To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.”  Amen. . . .


Four Husbands. . . . .

The local news station was interviewing an 80-year-old lady because she had just gotten married for the fourth time. The interviewer asked her questions about her life, about what it felt like to be marrying again at 80, and then about her new husband’s occupation. “He’s a funeral director,” she answered.

“Interesting,” the newsman observed.

He then asked her if she wouldn’t mind telling him a little about her first three husbands and what they did for a living. She paused for a few moments, needing time to reflect on all those years. After a short time, a smile came to her face and she answered proudly, explaining that she had first married a banker when she was in her 20’s, then a circus ringmaster when in her 40’s, and a preacher when in her 60’s, and now – in her 80’s – a funeral director.

The interviewer looked at her, quite astonished, and asked why she had married four men with such diverse careers.

She smiled and explained I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go.”


My father used to go bowling when I was a kid.  He would sometimes take me along.  He’d want me to watch (“zzzzzzz”) but I’d go play the pinball machines over by the exit.  Ready to make a fast getaway.    My dad’s team members all wore the same color short-sleeved shirt (gray) with their names stitched on.  “Pete” “Dave” “Carl” “Al” and so on.  But the stitching was in pink which I never understood.  I still have my father’s bowling shirt in the closet.  Or attic.  Somewhere.  I remember trying to bowl a few times.  As I recall, my best game ever was a 141.   

Does anyone “bowl” anymore?  And if so, for what purpose?   You have this big heavy ball.   And you throw it — trying to knock “pins” down.  You spend time in the alley.  And then you’re in the gutter.   You do well and you get a “strike.”  Just like what unions do — which is always bad.  Do okay and you get a “spare.”  Like a spare tire.  And if you do poorly, and don’t knock the pins down, people avoid looking at you (like this dude is really bad. . . . .).

I have never understood bowling or why the fuss.  I haven’t bowled in years.  I may never again.  The last time was some neighborhood thingee 30 years ago (“Let’s all go bowling“).  Donna said “oh please” so I smiled, drove to the bowling alley, rented the shoes (have you ever smelled the shoes they rent at bowling alleys?) and I didn’t bowl.  I drank some Dos Equis beer and looked at the pinball machines.  But I had the shoes on.  And a Hawaiian shirt.  I guess I looked like a bowler.  But my feet haven’t been the same since.  I just can’t understand.  Rolling a big, heavy black ball around.  Trying to hit some far off target.  Makes no sense whatsoever.  I’m going golfing. . . . .

Edward Snowden — Hero?

Edward Snowden recently blew the whistle on the colossal culture of government eavesdropping and spying on Americans.   He didn’t do it for money.  He says it was to alert the American people. 

Washington condemns his actions and demands his return from sanctuary.  The Administration is filled with rage.  The mainstream media (which seems biased and politically-motivated) echoes these sentiments.  Yet one might examine the operative question of whether Edward Snowden is a traitor — or a hero. When you have Glenn Beck, Oliver Stone, The New Yorker, Rand Paul, Rachel Alexander (of the Christian Post) and Michael Moore (and so many others) all calling Snowden a “hero,” you have to wonder if there isn’t more to the story than is being pressed on the American public by the government and the press.   

The issue raised by these strange bedfellows is as much about an encroachment on civil liberties as it is about an alleged traitor who is spilling secrets.  Which is worse?   Should Americans accept growing intrusion and oversight?  Should Americans question the IRS’s granting not-for-profit status to liberal political organizations but not to conservative ones?   Is there concern about spying on the Associated Press?  Are we worried that the White House has decreed that the Census Bureau (with all of its statistics) must now report to the White House and not to the Commerce Department (where it belongs)?  Do we go along with the silence and misdirection on the murder of Americans in Benghazi?   One has to wonder what’s coming down the road. . . . .  



For those Americans who know a foreign language like French, being able to speak with the accent of a Frenchman is probably a crowning glory.  To sound more French than you do American.  As an American visiting Paris, to speak French with a Parisian accent would likely raise a less arrogant eyebrow and invite a less rude response than might be normally expected from a Frenchman.  When I am in Mexico, I try to conform my Spanish to the local accent.  I can clumsily mimic an Argentine accent with the “shha shha” sounds.   Or the faster clip of a Puerto Rican accent.  I try not to “speak American” (Bway-nohss deee-ahss seen-yor).

So it crossed my mind that when one visits London or Scotland or Ireland, why is it that Americans don’t adopt a British accent in London (“howw dooo yoooo dooooo?”) or an Irish lilt in Ireland or a Scottish brogue in Scotland?  I mean it would seem natural for a linguist to try and “fit in” but it also seems a little quirky that an American would “put on” an Irish or English accent and adopt the jargon (“That tosser’s a bit wonky.  Probably a scouser“).  As you might imagine, I’ve tried it.  While in a taxi — with Donna.  We were chummy with the cabbie.  So I asked him if I could try talking with an English accent — and have his opinion.  “Bee’s knees, Governor” he said.  Well, I put on my best Prince Charles accent, yabbered on for a minute or so and then asked the driver what he thought.  “You sound like a bloody snoot.”    Maybe it was the Prince Charles impersonation . . . . .          

Say What You Will. . . .

Say what you will about Turkey and its current issues.  I would have to say that Istanbul is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  Set between two seas, with a history going back four millennium, Istanbul is chock full of “must see” sites.  And our trip with the CTU visit to Istanbul covered the big ones — and some of the lesser ones. 

The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) was to me the most dramatic.  Built between 1609 and 1616, the structure still functions as a mosque to the faithful.  My question — how in the Dickens do they hold up the roof and dome?  Mercy!   On arrival, Donna and the ladies needed to don head scarves to enter the mosque.  And many of the women put on wrap-around skirts to cover their legs.  And men with shorts?  They did too. 

The Hagia Sophia runs a close second.  This orthodox basilica (later a mosque) now stands as a museum and point – counterpoint with the Blue Mosque on the landscape of Istanbul.  The Hagia Sophia is a thousand years older than the Blue Mosque – with construction begun in 561 A.D.  I’d love to meet the architects. . . . .

Topkapi Palace?  Wow!   From the time of its construction in the 1450’s, Topkapi was home to Ottoman Sultans until 1856.  Topkapi holds some of the holiest relics of Islam including Mohammed’s cloak and his sword.  While many of the rooms of the Palace are open to the public, a great many are closed.  The Palace is guarded heavily by police and the Turkish military. 

A visit to Istanbul wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the main shopping bazaar, the spice bazaar (Donna and I got lost), the beautiful Chora Church (amazing mosaics) and a boat ride on the Bosphorus.  Would I go again?  You betcha.